Thursday, February 18, 2010

Work / Home Balance

I've been giving some thought to the whole issue of Work / Home balance. It seems the primary reason I did not get my job in Alaska was because I was not willing to be a corporate drone. Everything looked great, and I had indeed been told that I was the person hand picked for the job. But then I started asking questions about what sort of schedule would be expected. I spoke to the person who performed the same job in Pasco, WA. Apparently that guy routinely put in 70 hrs per week. I attributed this to him being a crazy work-a-holic. Then I met the person with the same job in Anchorage. He worked even longer hours. When do these guys sleep?

As I kept inquiring and exploring the same theme kept coming up. Throughout the company the expectation seemed to be for people to put in LONG days, often taking work home over the weekends and having precious few holidays and very little vacation. They lived to work. After talking to numorous people it became clear this was endemic with that company NOT because the individuals involved had no sense of balance in their lives, but rather because it was a corporate expectation. This is the dark side of far too many companies...expecting people to give up their lives for a paycheck and that is something I simply will not do.

So I balked.

I talked to the head CEO and told him point blank "I am a very good employee because I am passionate about what I do and I give 100%. However, one of the reasons I can be such a good employee is that my life WORKS. I have a great marriage. I am a member of a faith community. I have hobbies and interests. I enjoy a rich and rewarding personal life. So while I work very hard at my job, I need to be able to consistently go home and have time to fully rejuvenate in that personal life so then I have the energy to go back to work and give 100% all over again. I will work hard and as a professional I certainly understand that there will be occassional projects that require extra long hours or even the occassional weekend. But I would expect that as matter of routine I would not typically work more than 45-50 hrs in a week. I think anything more than that would mean that either the job was ill defined, efficient systems were not in place or the expectations were unreasonable. Any job that expects more than that on an ongoing basis would not be the right match for me."

Based on that, it seems, they decided that I was no longer the right match.

In all honesty I am VERY relieved we found out this basic mis-match BEFORE I took a job and moved rather than after.

As disappointed as I was to not get my dream of moving off to moose land, I am very clear that was NOT a good match for my values and needs.

So my job search continues. I have two interviews this week and another one the first week of March. I am gathering no moss.

Through it all I have had lots of opportunities to think about what kinds of jobs would be a fit for me and what would not. So many people I know are locked into jobs they hate, or at best jobs they merely endure. I really don't want to end up in that boat. I understand that EVERY job has things that will be annoying, tedious or uncomfortable. (That's why we consider it work instead of play, right?) Still, I believe it is possible to build a work life that is rewarding on personal levels and well as economic ones.

When looking for a place to live I've carefully considered what characteristics I want from a community - things like climate, size, and types of resources available. I think it makes sense to do the same sort of analysis for what sort of work life would be the best fit and reaching specifically in that direction rather than merely grabbing on to whatever might become available.

There is a lot I'm still not clear on. But these are the things I know for sure.

1.) I would rather work inside than outside. While I do like the chance to get a change of scenery now and again, I'm not likely to enjoy working outdoors in all sorts of weather.

2) I would rather work with ideas than machines. I worked in a factory once, long time ago. I could never do that sort of employment again. It was truly miserable.

3) I need to be able to support the overall mission of the company or organization that I work for. This means that even the very best job in a company that makes bombs or produces pornography would not be a fit. I have to know that the overall goal of my employer is to meet a legitimate need or improve quality of life somehow.

4) I need contact with other people. I'm good at statistical analysis and I have skills in data management. But if I'm stuck in a room by myself crunching numbers all day I'm going to go Postal. Whatever job I get needs to allow me some amount of contact with other people on a regular basis to keep me energized.

5) I can be a Chief or an Indian, but do not mircomanage me~!
I had a job in a medical research facility once where my supervisor wanted to approve every document before I was allowed to FAX it to the vendor we worked with. Every move I made had to be discussed and signed off on by higher ups. It was excruciating. I have a brain. Let me use it to do my job.

6) The flip side of not liking micromanagment is I don't really want to be totally left on my own. I am capable of making decisions and I work well independently. Still, I like to have someone else I can bounce ideas off of and it helps if I feel like there is a leader who is aware of what I'm doing. I tend to get highly motivated when working out of loyalty to a specific person, far more so than for individual success of any given project. While I don't need much hand-holding sort of supervision, I do like having some support and/or sense of being part of a team.

Ok - those are some basic generic things I know about what I want from a job. Now all I have to do is find a position in one of the geographic regions my husband and I have identified as desirable that meets (or at least comes close to meeting) most, if not all, of those criteria.

Don't know what I'm going to be when I grow up, but the journey of exploration to find it has certainly been interesting.


Rozel said...

As I reflect on jobs in which I did put in 80 hrs a week I did it because I LOVED my job. My job was my entertainment. Now I am in a different job and I LOVE my life outside my job. I would rather not be a work. IS there a happy medium?

JJ said...

Rozel: There is a happy medium. I went throught the same mental girations years ago. It is Belladonna's #6 that gets in the way. She already came to some great decisions, but thinks (maybe)she'd be set adrift without a lifeline from her employer. Not true. She can build her own support team. My wife and I have worked together from home for many years. Multi-task for several organizations. It works!

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